Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: And the Pursuit of Happiness

Summary: And the Pursuit of Happiness is beloved artist and author Maira Kalman's yearlong investigation of democracy and how it works. Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, on inauguration day Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C., launching a national tour that would take her from a town hall meeting in Newfane, Vermont, to the inner chambers of the Supreme Court.

As we follow Kalman's wholly idiosyncratic journey, we fall in love with Lincoln alongside her as she imagines making a home for herself in the center of his magisterial memorial; ponder Alexis de Tocqueville's America; witness the inner workings of a Bronx middle-school student council; take a high-speed lesson in great American women in the National Portrait Gallery; and consider the cost of war to the brave American service families of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The observations she makes as she travels charm and inform, and-as we have come to expect with Kalman-the route is always one of fascinating indirection.

Kalman finds evidence of democracy at work all around us. And the cast of characters we meet along the way is rousing good company, featuring visits from Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others.
And the Pursuit of Happiness is a remarkable tribute to our history and a powerful reminder of the potential our future holds, from a true national treasure. -- The Penguin Press

I had seen a few reviews of AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS by Maira Kalman around the blogosphere, and I immediately decided that I had to check out this book. AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS is an illustrated representation of the author's quest to learn about democracy and our country. It is such an original idea for a book and truly like no other book I've ever read.

AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS follows Ms. Kalman's year-long travels across the United States. She has divided the book up by the months of the year beginning with President Obama's inauguration in January and then takes the reader through her visits to the Supreme Count in Washington DC, Jefferson's home in Virginia, and some farms in California to name just a few. Along the way, she learns about many famous figures and events in our country's history that played a major (and sometimes not-so-major) role in democracy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hardly know where to start with my review. Part of me wants to just say "read it" because I'm not sure I can do it justice. This gorgeous book is chock full of amazing illustrations of people and places in the United States. And when I say chock full, it's pretty darn big -- over 450 pages. But don't let the weight of the book deter you from picking this one up because there isn't a lot of text on each page. It's mainly beautiful (and very interesting) illustrations along with the author's impressions from her year-long travels to discover the meaning of democracy.

As much as I loved the pictures in the book, I also found the author's impressions about her travels to be fascinating. I can't say that I always agreed with everything she had to say, but I loved how she gave her opinions in such an honest way. Much of her prose was very powerful and read like poetry, and it definitely caused me to reflect on my country and my life. I truly believe that everyone who picks up this book, regardless of their political and religious preferences, will be affected by Ms. Kalman's views.

AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS is one of those books that I could read over and over again. Unfortunately, I borrowed it from the library! I have a feeling that I'm going to have to purchase my own copy in the very near future. I just know that each and every time I read this book, I will discover something new.


Tricia said...

I absolutely adored this book and I'm glad you did too!

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book too! I think one of the things that made it so good is the author's positive attitude. Great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the illustrations that I've seen. It looks just beautiful!

Beth F said...

I loved this book too and I'm so glad I own a copy. Yes, you'll have to buy one for yourself.